Now that we have gotten all the introductions out of the way, in the words of Michael Buffer: "Let's get ready to rum-bleeeee!"
To test for fit, we mounted each of the coolers with the following hardware into a Cooler Master Gladiator 600 mid-tower case.
» Intel Core i5 750 (2.66GHz) processor
» Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2 Socket LGA1156 motherboard
» MSI Radeon R4870-MD1G PCIe Video card
» Seagate 500GB SATA 3Gbps hard drive
» OCZ Technology Obsidian PC12600 1600MHz DDR3 dual channel memory
» Cooler Master Real Power Pro 750 power supply
» Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit operating system
All of the equipment was bench-tested on an open-air platform with an ambient temperature of 28 degrees Celsius, but only loaded into a Cooler Master Gladiator 600 chassis for demonstrative purposes to give you an idea of how each cooler might fit based on real-world criteria.
CPUID's Hardware Monitor 1.15 was used for measuring the idle and load temperatures. Idle conditions were established with a 30 minute period where only Hardware Monitor was running. For load conditions, a combination of Prime 95 (with 8 instances running), SiSoft Sandra Professional's Burn-In Test, and FutureMark 3DMark Vantage were run for 30 minutes. All readings were noted and the average of the four core readings were charted. No additional fans are used in this setup.
The first set of graphs show how each cooler performed at idle, with only our temperature monitoring software running at a Windows 7 desktop. Based on our results, the Zalman CNPS10X Quiet finished first, with the Thermalright and Zaward units a close second. Of the three, the Zalman did the best at cooling the Northbridge, and the Zaward held a very thin advantage in cooling the voltage regulators. As an aside, all of the coolers are quite adequate at cooling our quad-core processor and the various chips on the motherboard with minimal stress to the system.